claire vo 🖤

claire vo 🖤

28-09-2022

16:32

Let me tell another story: A sales group kept going to engineering and PM to ask for stuff to be built that customers would pay for. Nobody built any of it, because they used frameworks & theory to determine what would be “higher impact” So the sales team sold what they had 1/X

(Some) customers would buy, and (some) customers would renew. The new “higher impact” products were slow to ramp, but that’s to be expected, we iterate and learn, right? We have an experimental mindset. Eng/PM says if things aren’t selling, hire better sales people. 2/X

For customers that are churning, the answer is simpler: “those just aren’t our target market.” The company refines it’s prospecting to target a narrower and narrower set of buyers. TAM shrinks but the company is confident it’s a sticky and growing market. 3/X

Terrible news: the sales team has a whale—huge opportunity customer—but they have dropped a few “must have” features in the deal. They need to close by Q4. “We don’t do fixed date commits.” The whale goes w the “way worse” competitor. 4/X

Pretty soon you’ve whittled TAM, are re-evaluating those big bets you were so sure of, and your competitor’s logo slide is starting to look mighty intimidating. The PMs/engs who were “so sure” left for a new job after 24 mos and the “good” new sales reps are ramping. 5/X

You WISH you had a success mess to clean up, but instead you have a pretty roadmap, a clean operating model, and interesting technical projects divorced from biz impact. 6/X

The story @GergelyOrosz outlines in the link above paints “Solutions Architects” as an anti-pattern, but setting up a technical services team to be the most forward-deployed technical teammates was the first job I gave @Bexcitement when she started at Color. 7/X

First: what are Solutions Architects? They are the customer facing partner to support the implementation of existing features or custom technical solutions for customers to get most out of our software. To sum: they are advisors and builders. 8/X

My SA team lives in our technical org aside PM, Eng, design, and data. But it’s not uncommon for them to live in a GTM org. No matter where they live, they work w, not against engineering. 9/X

Even better, the SA team is our experimental team: building extensions or MVPs in a nascent market, so these don’t muddle up our code if they’re quickly tossed. Some no code stuff, some extensions of our APIs, some custom reporting. 10/X

So how do you enable a Solutions Architect team without ruining your stack or causing strife w the Eng team? - good relationships - SA as “customer” - robust APIs - documentation, documentation, documentation 11/X

It’s not all roses, of course. Sometimes SAs break things for eng and sometimes Eng ships bugs that hit SA stuff. Everyone occasionally ships a bug. Everyone occasionally causes an incident. But it’s not someone “worse” just because it was someone with a SA title. 12/X

What skills are required in our SAs? - customer empathy - excellent communication - SQL - basic coding - working w APIs - no code is a plus! 13/X

And TBH sometimes Solution Architects hit gold: an extension or customization that is so rad, we productionize and roll out to all customers. I’ve seen SA built solutions end up on keynote stages. 14/X

So don’t knock Solutions Architects until you’ve done it right. And have respect for the real business need for meeting your customers unique use cases. 15/X

Finally: shout out to some of the best SAs and leaders in the biz: - @Bexcitement at @Color and our teammates Cassie, Anna, Sammy, Molly, Krishna, Jake, Lindsey, Sid, and Patricia - Rocky M at @LaunchDarkly - Andreas at @AWSAmplify 16/X

Tl;dr Building for customers *is* the job. A great Solutions Architect team can help you do that even better. That requires great partnership with engineering, but is totally possible. When you get SA right, magic happens. Fin (and to the top!)

TY to @RyanBaumann for breaking down the SA role into more detail here 👇


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